Victorian Era Femnism

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Victorian Era Feminism: Confined and Demeaned Imagine living in a world completely dominated by men. Imagine, just because of her sex, a woman is left powerless. Worst of all, imagine living a life of confinement, forced to be controlled by men with no chance of escape. Victorian women in nineteenth-century England lived this life. They had no respect, they had no power, and they had no freedom. In Charlotte Brontë’s, Jane Eyre, confinement of women is portrayed as the yearning to find the key to escape their red-rooms or attics. Through the characters of Mrs. Reed, Bertha Mason, and Jane Eyre, the typical Victorian women is shown along with their struggles to accept it. Besides her husband, a woman’s position in the Victorian sexual hierarchy was defined by her purity, self-control, and femininity. In order to be the “pure” woman every woman strived to be, she had to inherit four key traits: piety, purity, submissiveness, and domesticity (“Influence”). A Victorian woman was incapable of being considered pure without these qualities. Self-control was a trait a woman must have in order to maintain a suitable position on the hierarchy. Without self-control, women were labeled as mad or insane and sent to an asylum. Because of the consequences of lashing out, being quiet was the only way women could survive the Victorian sexual hierarchy (Anderson). Lastly, a Victorian woman must have value, and a Victorian woman’s value was seen mainly in her femininity. In order to be the ideal woman, she must be a wife and mother because those were the highest callings of a woman. Victorian women were separated into upper classes, middle classes, and under or working classes. Upper-class Victorian women had many more servants and help than lower classes, along with a better living situation, but they were still lonely and mistreated. The upper-class women rarely left their houses, and were not permitted to associate with the lower classes. They had a strict set of rules they


Cited: Abrams, Lynn. "Ideals of Womanhood in Victorian Britain." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. Anderson, Joan Z. "Angry Angels: Repression, Containment, and Deviance, In Charlotte Brontë 's "Jane Eyre"" Angry Angels: Repression, Containment, and Deviance, In Charlotte Brontë’s "Jane Eyre" The Victorian Web, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. Brontë, Charlotte, and Stevie Davies. Jane Eyre. London: Penguin, 2006. Print. "The Influence of Women." Family in Society: Essential Primary Sources. Ed. K. Lee Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, and Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 220-222. World History In Context. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. Maitzen, Rohan. " 'This Feminine Preserve ': Historical Biographies by Victorian Women." Victorian Studies 38.3 (1995): 371+. World History In Context. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. "Myth of the Perfect Family." Family in Society: Essential Primary Sources. Ed. K. Lee Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, and Adrienne Wilmoth Lerner. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 12-16. World History In Context. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. Swisher, Clarice. Women of Victorian England. San Diego, CA: Thomson Gale, 2005. Print. "Victorian Era." Historic World Events. Detroit: Gale, 2010. World History In Context. Web. 19 Feb. 2013. "Victorian Theories of Sex and Sexuality." Victorian Theories of Sex and Sexuality. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2013. "Women 's Rights Quiz." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2013.

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